After almost a year on the sidelines ‘Super’ Sage Northcutt (8-2) returns to action this Saturday night at UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Pettis. In Norfolk, VA, the 21-year-old karate ace faces UFC sophomore Michel Quinones.
“I wouldn’t say it’s been frustrating, waiting so long to fight, but obviously I wanted to get out there and compete,” said Northcutt to Bloody Elbow. “But I think there’s positives to it as well.”
Northcutt’s last fight was against Mickey Gall at UFC on FOX: VanZant vs. Waterson last December. He dropped that contest in the second round, due to a rear naked choke. It was Northcutt’s second loss in his pro career, the first being to Bryan Barberena at UFC on FOX: Johnson vs. Bader (which also ended via choke).
Northcutt’s time off in 2016 was initially down to having his tonsils removed, which forced him to miss months of training. After that he had fights with Claudio Puelles and John Makdessi fall through.
The benefit of this period of inaction, according to Northcutt, is that it has given him plenty of time to settle in with his new fight team: Sacramento’s Team Alpha Male. “I’ve been training at Team Alpha Male every single day the past few months,” he said. “And I’m improving every single day.”
Northcutt had previously trained with Roufusport alongside Anthony Pettis and Tyron Woodley. Before that he spent some time at Montreal’s Tristar Academy. Asked how he liked his new Californian digs, the Texan said, “Team Alpha Male is great! I have incredible training partners. I have incredible coaches, like Mr. Faber and Alex Munoz. And everybody in the gym that’s there; Danny Castillo, Chris Holdsworth, all the fighters, they’re all so talented and so they’re great at teaching and coaching. I’m improving at a rate so fast. It’s the place to be at for me.”
Northcutt stated that TAM was “so welcoming” to him when he joined and likened the team to a family; calling them “the nicest people around.” Northcutt also singled out and praised the gym’s relentless training pace.
“I think one of the best things about the gym is how Mr. Faber set it up. He has everything so structured. Everything so organized. Everyone pushes everyone. Everyone’s pushing the pace, going one-hundred-percent hardness. If it’s an hour-and-a-half practice, two hour practice, you’re pushing it the whole time and you come back a few hours later, and you go push it again. It’s a very high pace and it’s a very high learning rate, too. It’s great.”
Along with hard sparring (which Northcutt said he has enjoyed) Team Alpha Male is also known for chokes; specifically the guillotine. Northcutt, whose only losses come from chokes, hopes his new surroundings will improve that area of his game.
“Everybody here is so great at choking,” he said. “If you go back and look at Mr. Faber’s record, he has so many chokes that he’s choked people out with. So he’s the perfect person to teach me how to choke people out in every possible way and defend those chokes, too.”
However, when Northcutt looks back at his loss to Gall last year he doesn’t dwell on the submission move that lost him the bout. Instead he points to his decision making and game-planning as key factors that cost him the fight.
“I knocked down my opponent two times in the fight,” said Northcutt of his clash with Gall. “I could have hopped on the ground and finished him off, ground and pounded him, but I tried to stand back up, told him to get back up. If you have the ability to take advantage of a situation like that, you should do it and fight as smart as you can.”
Northcutt said that his coaches for that fight had instructed him not to go to the ground with Gall. This time out, Northcutt feels more comfortable to take the fight to the canvas. He explained that, at TAM, he has learned how to better transition between striking, wrestling, and grappling. Because of this Northcutt believes he can go to the ground and use striking and grappling transitions to overcome better pure grapplers.
“You can be the best jiu jitsu person around, but if you’re on the ground in an MMA fight and you’re getting elbowed in the face or kneed in the body, all of your jiu jitsu can go out the window,” said Northcutt. “You might actually get submitted by a person that could be a blue belt in jiu jitsu just because there is striking involved. It’s not just about one aspect of martial arts — it’s about the transitions, which really make you improve and make you the best.”
Adding to Northcutt’s confidence in his match-up with Quinones is the fact that the contest is taking place at 155 pounds, a weight Northcutt remains undefeated at. The Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight star explained that the only reasons he competed at 170 pounds were because he was issued a challenge (by Gall) and that he had a heavier short notice replacement (in Bryan Barberena).
Northcutt stated that he wants to stay at lightweight for the foreseeable future, even though it has been a challenge to make 155 pounds in the past.
“The last time I fought at 155, I cut a whole lot of weight, at least for my body, and I cut it on very short notice,” revealed Northcutt. “I walk around very lean with a very low percentage of body fat. So it was pretty tough for me the last time, but I think it’s going to be much easier now because every time I fought out there it’s kind of been trial and error. So every time I cut the weight, I’m learning the process and now I think I’m figuring it out and I think I’ll be faster, stronger, and more prepared at 155.”
In addition to a smarter and smoother weight cut, Northcutt is anticipating a fun and exciting fight versus Quinones at Norfolk’s Ted Constant Center. “He likes to stand up and strike, that’s great. Looks like he likes to throw kicks, too and that’s also great for me. I like throwing kicks myself. So I’m looking forward to the fight and looking forward to putting on a great show.”
To find out if Northcutt puts on a ‘great show’ while ‘Mr. Faber’ watches from his corner you’ll need to tune in to UFC Fight Night: Poirier vs. Pettis on November 11th. Northcutt vs. Quinones takes place on the FS1 Prelims, which begin at 8PM EST.